Post-Feminism & the Dehumanization of Sex Workers in SNL's Moet & Chandon Sketch

Curator's Note

In 2012, Saturday Night Live introduced the characters Brecky (Vanessa Bayer) and an unnamed woman (Cecily Strong), who are former pornographic film stars. In each of the five skits, the women are filming a commercial selling a product, which have included: champagne, a car, handbags, crystals, and shoes. The characters’ slurred words, mispronunciations, and general confusion portray them as incompetent, stupid, and potentially under the influence of drugs. During each skit the women end up telling stories from their past experience working in the sex industry. In this clip, the audience learns that Strong’s character “did a weird shoot in Mexico. Two of the girls disappeared, but I’m alive. Thanks champagne!” We also learn that Brecky was “cut in half for real” in a magic show, that she sprained her wrist “jerking off a horse.” In addition, Strong’s character tells the audience that she “got banged into a sink hole,” and that “one time, [she] woke up covered in blood, but it wasn’t [hers].”  When Justin Timberlake’s character tells the camera that he works in “feminist porn” it reifies what Rosalind Gill (2003) would call the “irony and knowingness” of post-feminist media culture. That is, the comic overtone of the skits invites audiences—who are interpellated as being “in on the joke”—to laugh at explicit stories of physical and sexual violence against women, which seem mitigated by the empty nod to feminism. Furthermore, Brecky and her co-star reflect the pervasive societal dehumanization of and violence against sex workers. Although sex work is not inherently violent, sex workers are disproportionately targets of violence, due largely to the criminalization of the majority of the industry. Rates of violence increase significantly for sex workers of color and transgender sex workers (WHO, et al., 2013). Judith Butler argues that a life is only “livable” if it can also be deemed “grievable” (Butler 2009). The casual and unapologetic public joking about these sex workers’ safety (or lack thereof) suggests that they are not worthy of grief and thus are not “humans who are worth valuing” (125).


Raechel, you're so on the money with your critique of this recurring sketch. And like "hipster racism" your focus on the "empty nod to feminism," is what, I think, allows comedy writers and performers to consider themselves off the hook, but actually they're perpetuating damaging stereotypes and punching down rather than up.

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